Agreement to resume Black Sea grain exports to Ukraine to be signed on Friday – Turkey

ISTANBUL/UNITED NATIONS, July 21 (Reuters) – Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will sign an agreement on Friday to resume Ukrainian grain exports to the Black Sea, the country said on Thursday. office of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Russia and Ukraine are the world’s two main suppliers of wheat, but Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor on February 24 has sent food prices skyrocketing and fueled an international food crisis. The war has blocked exports from Kyiv, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos at the port of Odessa.

Ankara said a broad agreement was reached on a UN-led plan during talks in Istanbul last week and will now be put in writing by the parties. Details of the deal were not immediately known. It is due to be signed at the offices of Dolmabahce Palace by 1:30 p.m. GMT on Friday, Erdogan’s office said.

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Ahead of talks last week, diplomats said details of the plan included Ukrainian ships guiding grain ships in and out of mined port waters; Russia agrees to truce while expeditions move; and Turkey – backed by the United Nations – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of arms smuggling.

The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to negotiate what António Guterres called a “comprehensive” deal – to resume Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea and facilitate Russian shipments of grain and fertilizer.

Ukraine could potentially restart its exports quickly, Ukrainian Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy said on Thursday.

“The majority of the infrastructure of the ports of greater Odessa – there are three of them – remains, so it is a matter of several weeks in case there are adequate security guarantees,” he told Ukrainian television.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, instead blaming the chilling effect of Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining its ports in the black Sea.

A day after the Istanbul talks last week, the United States sought to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports by reassuring banks, shipping and insurance companies that such transactions would not violate Washington sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. Read more

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; additional reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kyiv and Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul; edited by Susan Heavey and Jonathan Oatis

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